The mood was somber on the morning of July 18th as students gathered at Percy Julian High School in Washington Heights, on Chicago far south side.
Less than 24 hours earlier the verdict was handed down in the case of the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman. The man who killed Trayvon Martin was acquitted, setting a new precedent in states that have “stand your ground” self-defense laws. Illinois is one such state.
Attendees of the predominantly black high school have grown accustomed to the grim reality of death – there have been 54 murders in the Washington Heights neighborhood in 2013. But after Trayvon Martin was shot on February 26th, Alvin Henry, a student at Percy Julian, said he thought about his own safety a little differently. While gang violence is a concern for many students in the Washington heights community, Henry says he hadn't really worried about violence from people like George Zimmerman. “When the event first happened, it had me wondering. If that happened in Florida, it could happen anywhere, anytime.”
Dogs. Dump trucks. Camouflage.
These were some of the signs of security measures put in place by Chicago Marathon organizers on Sunday, part of a comprehensive plan to ensure a safe and successful marathon in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing last April.
The heightened security presence during last weekend's race offered impediments to spectators and runners, especially at the start and finish line. But standing on Michigan Avenue Sunday morning, complaints about bomb-sniffing dogs and patrolling SWAT teams were nowhere to be heard.
“The police presence is visible. I think they've definitely discouraged people from trying anything.” Danny Gill came from Indianapolis to cheer on his fiancee, but due to increased security measures at Grant Park, he watched expectantly from Halsted Street in Pilsen. He was satisfied with his view of the route. “It's still great for people to cheer, because they're still able to have access to the runners.”